I’ve never been afraid to do any work on my home. I always used the opportunity to not only improve my home, but also as a learning experience. Before the internet age, most of my home improvement knowledge came from learning things the hard way. Finishing the basement, I learned that you really should measure twice and cut once. There’s a very sinking feeling when you go to hang your drywall, or frame a door only to realize that you needed the length to be 100” and not 96”… It happens, sure, but damn it’s frustrating (especially when your lovely wife likes to point out that we could’ve hired somebody to do a better job, faster for only a fraction more money). But you learn from that and the next project goes even smoother… until you run into a new “learning experience.”
When I worked construction as a broke college student, I learned a lot about how to do things the right way. I learned even more about doing things the wrong way. Most of the work I did on these jobs were in the finishing stages of the build. I would help install cabinets, crown molding, and kitchen countertops. I still, to this day, can knock out a chair rail in about an hour and a half (I forgot how slow and tedious it used to be without a nail gun and laser level).
Big projects, on the other hand, have not been the kindest to me, and I generally take my wife’s orders and call in the professionals to handle the tough stuff. That might change. My wife and I had a talk, and decided that we don’t see ourselves moving homes again. This is where all of our memories are. The place that our kids grew up, and the place that we hope our grandchildren come to visit us. Since we aren’t going anywhere, we’ve decided to add some attractions to the back yard. Our dream is to have a large in-ground pool with an attached hot tub and a covered pergola to house the two Big Green Eggs we have, a fridge, and a sink. Our own outdoor oasis.
It didn’t take long to realize that our budget would need to be (much, much) higher if we were to hire a contractor to get the work done. After some back-and-forth, we decided to divide the work and do what we can ourselves, and leave the rest to the professionals. My task: pour the foundation for the patio and test out my stone-stacking ability to create the outdoor kitchen portion of the work. It wasn’t a fast process, but with a little grading, the slab went in just fine, and by the time I got to the third palette of stones, I was pretty good at chiseling them to fit our form. With a couple weekends of work, I was able to say I built our outdoor kitchen.
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After the initial success of the kitchen, I thought I’d save us some more money by renting a small excavator and bobcat and I would dig the holes for the pool and hot tub. How hard could it be? I’ve seen a video of a kid running an excavator, and he was only seven year old. So I got to googling, and it didn’t take long for me to confidently say that there is no way I will ever convince my wife to let me do this. In my searches I found way too many guys with tipped equipment, injuries, and water lines hit, sewer lines crushed and worse. I’m gonna leave it to the pros.
I’ve attached a few of my favorite videos from my research… One is really unfortunate, and the other is really impressive… I don’t think I could convince my wife to let me de-robe her with a giant excavating tractor… I was born with the gentle touch of a blacksmith… would you have the guts to try it?